AMS Accreditation Visiting Team: Brenda Huth, Laura Bowen-Pope, Heather Gerheim-Gladden, Micah Earle
We are pleased to announce that our two-year re-accreditation process with the American Montessori Society (AMS) is finally behind us and MSGL performed very well. Although our re-accreditation will not be officially announced until later this summer, all indications are that we met or exceeded the standards. Those standards include the areas of: Vision and Purpose, Leadership and Governance, Teaching and Learning, Documenting and Using Results, Personnel, Facility Resources, Records and Support Systems, Stakeholder Communication and Relationships, and Commitment to Continuous Improvement.
The AMS onsite team arrived on Sunday, March 29th. Members included Brenda Huth, Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Micah Earle, Chantilly, VA; Laura Bowen-Pope, Woodinville, WA; and Heather Gerheim-Gladden, Brecksville, OH. The team toured the school and conducted interviews with the administrative staff, current and alumni parents, and the MSGL Board.
Angie and Somdatta charm the visiting team in the Birch Room
We are so grateful to the parents who took time Sunday afternoon to share stories of their experiences with our school. Thank you to Tiina Jaagosild, Melissa Law-Penrose, Melissa Fraterrigo, Ginette Roos, Janet Lee, Genevieve Wang, Tony Harvey, and Gretchen Freese. We were especially honored that MSGL’s founders, Jan Dilley and Jan Knote, shared their stories of how they started MSGL back in 1971. “The Two Jan’s,” as they are affectionately called, are very proud of the continued success of the little school that grew out of their dreams and the dreams of the eight families who initially pooled their resources to open its doors in 1972.
Jan Dilley and Jan Knote, founders of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette
Current and alumni parents share experiences of MSGL with the visiting team
MSGL alumni parents Mary and Dwight McKay hosted a welcome dinner Sunday evening in their home for the board, staff, and visiting team. The evening was the perfect opportunity for the team to see how important MSGL is to our community and for us to learn about the hometowns and Montessori schools of the four team members.
Hilary Cooke and Fay Mentzer at the welcome dinner
Brenda Huth and Mr. Dilley share a joke
Monday and Tuesday allowed little time for socializing as the team was busy observing classrooms, interviewing teachers, and reviewing documents. Some of our families provided homemade goodies for the team to snack on during the day. Thank you to Amy VanHorn, Joni Lane, and Abby Christiansen for the treats! In the evenings, the team wrote up reports about all they had learned during the day.
On Wednesday morning, the team presented its exit report to the steering committee. The report was comprised of commendations and recommendations for the continued excellence and growth of the school. The team was moved by the level of parent involvement and the joy shown by the MSGL children. Team chair Brenda Huth praised the teachers for their willingness to “wear many hats” and work where they are needed. Lena Atkinson was also commended for her work in preparing all of the school’s documents so they could be accessible online. Lena’s work made this the most organized onsite visit the team has ever experienced and they hope she will share her ideas at the 2016 AMS National Conference in Chicago.
Angie Shamo and Anita Trent discuss spring plans for the Oak Room Garden.
The AMS re-accreditation process takes place every seven years. When completed, families can be assured that the school operates according to the high expectations set by this national organization. We are currently one of only five Montessori schools in all of Indiana that are accredited. We could not have completed this process without the help of the staff and families who have worked for the past two years preparing themselves and the campus for this visit. Have you helped inventory library books or helped mend classroom materials? Have you shoveled mulch and washed windows at parent workdays? Have you swept sidewalks and helped maintain the buildings on your days off? Have you made donations to our classrooms or scholarship fund? You are one of the generous MSGL family members who continue to make this a great little family-run school. MSGL can’t happen without all of you. Thank you for the love and support you show MSGL. We look forward to seeing what the next seven years will bring.
A car full of goodies is ready to be delivered to a local family sponsored by MSGL families.
A Lafayette mom got a big surprise Thursday night when Montessori School of Greater Lafayette (MSGL) teacher, Kelly Sallee, and her husband Randy delivered a car full of holiday cheer to her front door. Evelyn (not her real name), a 33-year-old mother of four who was recently diagnosed with cancer, knew the Sallees were bringing dinner and a few surprises for her older children, but she wasn't expecting armfuls of gifts and personal items for her 10-month-old baby, her husband, and even herself.
"She knew nothing about this," Sallee said of the mom's reaction. "She said she feels so grateful and blessed."
After being diagnosed with cancer in the fall and going through two surgeries, Evelyn worried that she and her husband would not be able to give their children a happy Christmas. Her husband works full-time and also helps her get to her treatments in Indianapolis every week. The travel expense and taking time away from work has made it difficult for the family to pay their rent and other bills, so Christmas presents were out of the question. When Evelyn reached out to local assistance groups in early December, she learned she had missed the deadline to apply. So she turned to a local Facebook group to see if anyone knew of an organization that could help her give her children just a little something to look forward to on Christmas morning, and that's where Kelly found her.
A basket of items just for mom.
"I called two local agencies to see if they knew of a family that my family could sponsor for the holidays but they didn't respond," Kelly said. "So I thought, I'm going to go find my own family."
When she saw Evelyn's post on Facebook, she sent her a message and they started talking. Kelly was moved by the young mom's situation and decided this was a family that could really use some help. When she shared the young family's story with the families of her Willow preprimary class at MSGL, they were eager to help. Teachers and families from other classes and Kelly's mom and sister also joined in, and that's when the fun really started.
Taylor and Kelly preparing to wrap packages.
"I am so overwhelmed with the great response," Kelly said. "I received so many gift cards in my mailbox and there were new items in the collection box every day. I am thankful for the classroom families and teachers who have contributed to this cause."
The box Kelly put in the hallway to collect items for the children was soon overflowing and the items had to be stored in the school's conference room. Although Evelyn was only hoping to have a few items for her 6, 8, and 11-year-old children, the outpouring of love from the MSGL community included items for the baby, a gift card for dad, and a basket filled with lotion, fuzzy socks, and candles to pamper mom. The family also received gift cards for gas to help with driving back and forth to Indianapolis for Evelyn's treatments. Classroom parents and Kelly's mother and sister wrapped all of the gifts and made stockings personalized with each child's name.
MSGL families sponsored a local family that could use a little extra love this year.
The family celebrates Christmas, so families donated gifts and stockings.
On Thursday, Kelly and Randy packed up the gifts, picked up pizzas for the family's dinner, and delivered them to their home. The children had to stay in their rooms until everything was hidden because mom and dad want the gifts to be a surprise on Christmas morning. Evelyn had just returned from having a port implanted for chemotherapy that day and was not feeling well, but she thanked the Sallees over and over again for everything they had done. She was especially touched by the handmade cards made by the MSGL children.
Cards made by the children of Willow class.
"She said she was surprised that the kids had made the cards just for them," Kelly said. "And she hung them up with all of her other Christmas cards."
Kelly hopes the MSGL family can reach out to a local family again next year and she intends to start planning in the fall.
"Not only did it bring so much joy to my family and myself to be able to help this sweet family this holiday season, but it was equally priceless to see how well-received this endeavor was at Montessori. I signed one of the cards on behalf of the school so that the family knew our community came together to make a magical morning for this very deserving family."
The best kind of snow day is when you can actually play in the snow.
Last week provided a miserable welcome to the new semester. Snow, high winds, and bitter cold meant that the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette was in session for only 20 out of a possible 40 hours over four days. Our staff did its best to maintain communication with the families and those families were very understanding. There were, however, a few questions about how we respond to Indiana’s volatile winter weather at MSGL.
The question of the week was “If the weather continues like this, can we expect to continue having so many delays and closures?” The short answer is, "yes." But how are decisions about school delays made? That's a longer answer.
I would have thought this to be a very elementary understanding. Doesn't everyone know when it's too dangerous to take the kids to school? But when I found myself working as MSGL's "Weather Delay Intern" last week, I discovered that many factors contribute to a closing or delay, and they are not always obvious to everyone.
First, there are no hard and fast rules for determining if conditions are too dangerous for school. Everything depends on timing. Temperatures below -12F are a general cut-off if people are going to be outside for more than a few minutes. However, if the roads are clear and the temperatures are on the rise at 8 a.m., then -12F might be acceptable at arrival. High winds could change that, of course. Roads that are clear now may not be clear when morning classes dismiss. Or they might be passable in town, but dangerous out in the country. And all of this has to be considered over the course of our 10-hour day.
MSGL can't follow the determinations of local school districts because they have special considerations - such as bus transportation and a large number of students who walk to school. Generally, MSGL can be in session more frequently than the public schools.
The weather is just one component of a weather-related school delay. Preparation of facilities and the safety of our staff are two others. And our families themselves are an important consideration.
Facilities: The parking lot and sidewalks must be clear of snow and ice before staff and families arrive. Our school is a small, not-for-profit, parent-owned school. A small core of people manage the day-to-day operations of the school and the needs of over 500 people. This is why we rely on a private company to clear the parking lot, sidewalks, and steps of snow and ice. That company serves several other businesses each day AND it needs two hours to clear MSGL after a snow or ice event. As an example, if the snow stops falling at 6 a.m. on a school day and we are third on the list for snow removal, school cannot open at 7:30. The ability of our snow removal contractor to clear our lot and paths before we arrive is a major determinant of our start time.
Cultural Considerations: Another little-known factor is our region's cultural relationship with winter weather. As one parent said, "I grew up in Vermont. We don't cancel school there." Indiana's threshold for tolerating winter weather might be a bit lower than other cold places because we don't see as many snowy days and our street departments are not equipped for a large quantity of snow on a regular basis. And because the majority of the West Lafayette community is made up of faculty or students from Purdue University, we also have a lot of families who come from places with absolutely no snow, ice, or cold temperatures. It can take these families a few snowy days to get the hang of dressing for the weather and driving in it. We are more comfortable with snow than Los Angeles, but less comfortable than Montpelier - and that makes a difference in how we respond to it.
Staff: Teachers and staff need to be able to travel safely and arrive at school before the children. Our staff are dedicated to their jobs and they want to be at school. While it’s easy to imagine teachers being excited to have a snow day, the reality is that the majority of our teachers have school-aged children of their own. Just like MSGL families, the teachers have to scramble to get their children safely to school in case of a delay or to arrange other care if public schools cancel and MSGL is in session.
Many of our staff live outside of city limits and travel county roads to get to work, so their ability to arrive safely is always a top priority. Delaying the start of school allows them to get out of their driveways and travel potentially hazardous roads in daylight so they can be here when the families arrive. We could call on substitute teachers to work for staff who cannot make it to school, but our substitute teachers are also home with their children on these days. Operating without adequate staff is not an option so we need to be sure all of our teachers can get to school.
Forecasted weather: Conditions throughout the day, and not just at arrival, need to be considered to determine closures and delays. The weather may be clear at morning arrival, but if incoming snow and/or ice and wind threaten later in the day, staff and children could become stranded at school or out on the roads. The administration must take into account the anticipated timing of dangerous weather and sometimes cancel classes in advance of this weather (even if that bad weather never fully materializes.)
Our early arrival and after school programs are the first to be cancelled because MSGL is a school and not a daycare facility. We do offer before and after-care programs that can function as full-day care for families, but our primary function is that of a school. This means being open during class time from 8:30 - 3:00 takes priority over being open before and after class.
We understand that it is frustrating to wake up to a school delay or cancellation. Our Montessori parents have jobs, commitments, and plans and not being able to leave their children in our care causes real problems for them. That being said, MSGL is a parent-owned school. We were started by parents over 40 years ago and all current MSGL families are the current owners of the school. If you are reading this and you have children enrolled at our school, you are one of the owners of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. With that ownership, come some responsibilities.
What can MSGL families do to help?
1. Stay informed - before school and during the day. We announce delays, cancellations, and early dismissals through many different sources. Here is a listing.
2. Offer help, if you can. If you have some time after bringing your child to school on a wintry day, you might:
If possible, we would prefer to be able to control the climate and prepare the outdoor environment as carefully as we prepare our students’ learning environments. But the realities of winter weather require our staff and families to be vigilant, flexible, and patient with weather events - and the timing of those events - over which we have no control.
And if you, like me, are curious how the large, public school districts determine delays, this video from Louisville, KY is interesting.
Thanks for reading, ~Heather
These class photos from 1973 and 1974 were recently shared by Jan Dilley who, along with Jan Knote, is a founding mother of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. MSGL opened in 1972 with one preprimary class. Unfortunately we are unable to find a class photo from that first year. These two photos represent the second and third years that MSGL was in operation inside the Temple Israel in West Lafayette.
1973 - MSGL preprimary class
1974 - MSGL preprimary class
Do you know anyone in these photos? We would love to hear from you in the comments section.
We Love Our Teachers!
The lovely ladies of MSGL, August 2014
It's Teacher Appreciation Week and it's the perfect time to give a shout out to the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette's amazing teaching staff. Our teachers come from all over the world and from many different backgrounds, bringing their experiences, understanding, and love of children to share with our Montessori families. Did you know that West Lafayette is the most culturally diverse city in the Midwest? This is largely due to the population of Purdue University which is ranked 2nd in the nation for total international student enrollment. Since over 60% of our families have a connection to Purdue either as staff or students, it's not surprising that MSGL's teaching staff is also diverse.
One way we measure this diversity is with a tally of languages spoken by the staff. Over 26% of the staff speaks English and a second language fluently. And 10% of staff members are trilingual, allowing MSGL to offer students daily exposure to Spanish, Russian, and Korean language and culture. Here is a breakdown of staff languages.
The teachers' love for their work shows in the number of years they have been with the school and their eagerness to enroll their own children here. Over half of our staff members have been with the school for over 10 years. And 61% of the staff currently have children enrolled at MSGL, are parents of MSGL alumni, or are MSGL alumni themselves.
Some of our teachers came to Montessori after studying education. Many others followed their children here before deciding to become a teacher with backgrounds including art history, biology, interior design, psychology, anthropology, nursing, journalism, medieval studies, philosophy, history, and chemistry. However they discovered Montessori, we are grateful they found us and chose to stay. Here is a look at these hard-working ladies over the past year.
Mary Dyrenfurth and Cathy Stier
Somdatta Datta Roy
We salute you, beautiful ladies of MSGL! Thank you for bringing your dedication, your love of children, and your sense of humor with you each and every day.
An MSGL preprimary student prepares carrots at home using a chopper and cutting board of her own.
Dozens of MSGL students are enjoying increased independence at home thanks to the “Bringing Montessori Home” parent development night held January 21, 2015. Thirty parents and grandparents attended the 1 ½ hour event that offered live demonstrations of Montessori-inspired activities children can do at home as well as hands-on activities, and an introduction to the Montessori philosophy.
Small groups of parents rotated through three different classrooms to observe and take part in presentations. Dena Saunders and Emily Frazier presented Care of Self and Care of the Environment. Getting dressed, caring for plants and pets, and cleaning up spills were some of the topics covered. Dena elicited “oohs and aahs” from one group when she demonstrated how to use masking tape to make a square on the floor so a child can easily sweep spills into a dust pan.
Angie Shamo and Machelle French demonstrated how to put together a few simple art activities on a shelf at home for when a child wants to work creatively and independently. The cutting strips, which consist of thin, sturdy paper strips on a tray with a pair of scissors, allow the child to practice cutting safely and successfully. Another suggestion was to offer just three colors of watercolor paints at a time - in the beginning - so a child can successfully create a painting without all of the colors mixing into brown. Families were also given the school’s popular recipe for making play dough at home.
Many parents tried their hands at peeling and chopping carrots and peeling clementines in the food preparation class led by Anita Trent and Ana Ramirez. Each activity was arranged as it could be in the home, including child-sized tools. Hand-washing and serving etiquette were also discussed as these are important aspects of food preparation for young children. While one parent offered sliced carrots to the group, Anita said, “Imagine how it feels for your child to serve you just like you have always served your child.”
After the presentations, many parents said they were excited to try these activities at home with their children. They also felt that some of the things their children were already doing at home, such as preparing a salad and feeding the fish, meshed nicely with the Montessori philosophy.
Each family received a selection of child-sized items to use at home.
Each family in attendance received a materials bag containing a child-sized vegetable peeler and chopper, a small pitcher, a dust pan set, cutting strips and scissors, child-sized sponge and towel, and a hook to hang the child’s coat or book bag at a level where she can reach it. Families also received a custom-made photo book - created by the teachers - that reviews materials covered in the presentations as well as offering additional ideas and resources.
Materials bags and books are still available for purchase in the office for $10.
Thank you to everyone who attended! MSGL plans to offer “Bringing Montessori Home” again next year and will include new activities and take-home materials.
A recent photo of Shriya in 2016
As a preschooler, Shriya Samavai Manian appreciated spending her days surrounded by colorful, beautiful things in her classroom at MSGL. Now, twenty years later, she spends her days creating beautiful things for others.
The West Lafayette native works as a photographer, writer, fashion designer, and DJ on New York’s Upper West Side. And that’s just her freelance work. After graduating from Columbia University in 2015, Shriya was hired by designer Ellen Van Dusen to assist her at Dusen Dusen, a womenswear and homegoods studio in Brooklyn.
“The team is really small, just the designer, myself and a salesperson, but the output is really large,” Shriya said. “It’s nice to be working on a small team and learning about clothing design from the ground up.”
Being one-third of the team requires Shriya to participate in all aspects of the production of Dusen’s colorful and boldly-patterned fabric designs, which are manufactured in New York’s garment district.
“I picked up 100 yards of elastic yesterday and delivered it to a production house,” she said. “I have unloaded giant bolts of fabric into a factory. We just did a lookbook shoot last Saturday and I assisted the photographer, steamed the clothing, and helped the models get dressed.”
Shriya has always wanted to run her own business, which is evidenced by the number of entrepreneurship competitions in which she competed in high school and college. She placed in the top three at the Columbia Engineering Fast Pitch Contest, the Edens SmART Retail Challenge, and Purdue’s Entrepreneurship Academy. She understands that this wide variety of experience in New York’s fashion world is helping her organize her own design company.
“Every week I’m learning something completely different. I’m thinking, okay, when it gets to this point for me, how do I want to do this?”
That point looms just around the corner for Shriya and her friend, Lauren Field, a senior at Barnard College. The duo is collaborating on a clothing line right now that should be ready for launch in April, called Studio Lucien. They both have a deep interest in art history and want to make clothes inspired by works of art. Their first project is a rain jacket with Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s painting, “Under the Wave Off Kanagawa (Great Wave),” printed on the inside lining of the jacket.
“We’re working with a factory in the garment district that is currently in the process of sewing all the jackets,” she said. “We started with a sample, which was made by a pattern-maker in New York. We sketched out the idea of what we wanted and worked with her to create the initial jacket. We bought the fabric in New York and got it printed at a factory in New Jersey. Hopefully, the first round of jackets will be delivered to us in March.”
Studio Lucien's Hokusai Jacket coming out in April 2016.
Shriya didn’t set out to be a fashion designer. She always presumed she would be an engineer. She graduated from West Lafayette High School in 2011 and moved to New York to study engineering at Columbia. While studying subjects planted firmly in the STEM department, she spent her free time going to museums, galleries, and concerts and hanging out with friends who were studying art history.
“It wasn’t until college that I even learned that art history was a viable major,” she said. “I thought, what is this thing where you get to sit in class and look at paintings all day? I was friends with a bunch of artists but was going to class and studying engineering.”
When she began to visualize herself studying something besides engineering, she talked with her parents about changing her major to art history and business management.
“Everybody in my family has done engineering. My brother did engineering at Purdue, my father is a professor of chemical engineering, my mom has a masters in engineering,” she said.
But her parents could tell she wasn’t really happy or excited about what she was studying at Columbia and they encouraged her to follow her interests.
“I just had to convince them that it (art history) was a real thing to study and a real thing to pursue after school,” she said. “Now, they are so supportive. Really supportive of my photography and writing and my design. I think they just had to come around to it because it was so new to them. Studying art isn’t common in India, and honestly it’s not a big field in the midwest, either,” she said.
Shriya and her dad celebrate her 3rd birthday in the Toddler Room in 1996.
In April, 2015, her parents’ doubt was erased for good when Shriya and Lauren won first place in Columbia Venture Competition’s Undergraduate Challenge with their idea of taking art history and translating it into clothing. They competed against six other teams in the final round and every other team’s project was based on science, medicine, or engineering.
“We were stressed out because we thought nobody probably cared about this idea besides us,” she said.
Winning first prize was a big confidence booster for the team and for Shriya personally. “It’s good to have that validation when you’re working with an idea and you’re not sure how other people will respond to it,” she said.
The validation included a $25,000 prize that Shriya and Lauren tapped into to make Studio Lucien a reality.
“We’ve spent very little of the money so far,” she said. “It’s only gone into the jacket.”
In most start-up business ventures, inexperience is considered a liability, but Shriya credits her lack of design experience with keeping her mind open to creative - and now successful - ideas.
“It’s nice when you don’t know what you’re doing because you’re willing to try anything,” she said.
Shriya attended MSGL toddler and preprimary classes in the late 1990’s. Although she left before her Kindergarten year, she has memories of the time she spent here.
Shriya celebrates her 4th birthday in Maureen Northacker's class at MSGL in 1997.
“I have great memories of playing in the gym with those little scooters. I recall having a very long scroll of paper and writing every number. I loved counting beads. I remember learning how to wash my hands,” she said, laughing. “There were lots of practical things I learned at Montessori. I loved that building (Morton Community Center.) I thought it was so beautiful. I remember Maureen, I remember Zainab, I remember Suman, I remember Durga. Honestly, I wasn’t there for very long, maybe 3 or 4 years max, but I have really good memories of being there. And I loved how hands-on everything was. I remember you could learn how to zip a zipper, braid, button stuff up, and tie your shoes. I think that really is the best way to learn. It’s not boring and it shouldn’t be.”
Accurately self-described as “having more than one thing happening,” Shriya is simultaneously working on a separate clothing line set to launch in late 2016 or 2017. It is a line of unisex outerwear that she describes as “really nice jackets that are made for anyone of any gender.” Shriya enjoys the many creative directions her life is spinning off into right now, and she plans to continue her design work in the foreseeable future.
Alyeesha Puri, Shriya, and Sejal Sheth on the MSGL
playground at Morton Community Center in approx. 1997.
“Ideally, I would love to be living in some metropolitan area, whether it’s New York or a different part of the world, and making clothes or being somehow involved with art,” she said. “I think that’s what really drives me the most. Being able to create something that evokes some kind of visceral reaction. And I like to collaborate with people.”
Best wishes from all of your old friends at MSGL, Shriya! We can’t wait to see what you do next.
Photos courtesy of Shriya.
This post is part of a series "I Am MSGL" featuring alumni of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette. If you or someone you know would like to be featured in this series, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.